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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. January's Theme: "Health"
Volume 5 Issue 2 ISSN# 1708-3265
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Why Eat Raw Foods?
by Jenny Cornbleet

Everyone knows it's healthy to eat fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables every day. That isn't a new concept. We also know most vitamins and other micro-nutrients are damaged or destroyed at temperatures above 130 degrees F. But did you know many of these newly discovered micro-nutrients are believed to help prevent cancer and other diseases? Eating lots of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables will increase the vitamins and micro-nutrients in your diet.

Any diet you choose to follow will be improved by eating more fruits and vegetables, less sugar, and less refined food. If you eat meat, your diet needs to be supplemented with green leafy vegetables, and if you are a vegetarian or vegan, adding some raw food recipes will give you more nutrition and variety than a diet of cooked vegetables and starches alone. Don't feel you have to follow a strict all-raw diet all of the time to get started—anyone can add raw food recipes to meals they already eat and enjoy. A raw food diet simply says these foods should be most of what we eat.

It's easier for most people to add new foods gradually. Don't worry about cutting anything out of your present diet. Once you start adding healthy foods, you'll find the less healthy things will naturally fall away.

What is the raw food diet?

"Raw" means food which is unprocessed, unrefined, and untreated with heat. The three main raw food groups are fresh fruits, vegetables (particularly green leafy vegetables) and natural fats, such as avocados, nuts, and seeds. Raw food isn't a radical concept; most nutritionists agree we need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. The raw food diet simply suggests these foods should be most (or all) of what we eat, and should be prepared in a way that maximizes nutrient content.

What are some of the nutritional benefits of the raw food diet?

Eating a diet rich in fresh greens, vegetables, and fruits is the easiest way to maintain optimal health and weight. It helps you avoid the foods which have been linked to degenerative diseases and weight gain, including "bad carbs" (such as white sugar and white flour) and "bad fats" (saturated and trans-fats). Additionally, raw greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds have vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes, and fibre—all essential for good health. Better nutrition will not only help prevent disease and overweight, but also slow the aging process and increase your energy.

Do you recommend eating a 100% raw diet?

Eating raw foods doesn't need to be all or nothing. A small percentage of people eat 100% raw, but this isn't practical for most of us. Eating even 50-75% raw foods can improve health and vitality. The main point is to increase the percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.

What is the importance of enzymes in the raw food diet?

Enzymes help "digest" or break down raw foods. For example, when fruits ripen, their enzymes change starches into simple sugars (which is why unripe fruit isn't as sweet). Raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds contain the enzymes necessary to complete the digestion process. (The enzymes in nuts and seeds are activated through soaking them.) The importance of food enzymes in the diet is currently a subject of debate among nutritionists. What we do know is enzymes are the most heat sensitive of all nutrients, destroyed at temperatures above 118 degrees F. More and more research suggests eating high-enzyme foods aids digestion, and our bodies can recycle many of the enzymes in food, which means less depletion of its own store of enzymes. Eating an enzyme-rich diet is thought to increase vitality and slow the aging process.

Isn't the raw food diet high in fat, with all those nuts, seeds, and avocados?

There are good fats and bad fats. The bad fats include trans-fats, saturated animal fat, and refined polyunsaturated fats, such as the fat in refined cooking oils. The "good fats" are all the raw ones: the mono-unsaturated fats, present in avocados, almonds, and olive oil; Omega-3 fatty acids, present in hemp seeds, flax seeds and walnuts; and medium-chain saturated fatty acids, present in coconut and coconut oil. True, you don't want to eat too much fat of any kind, but as long as you are getting enough fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables, and not overeating, you don't have to worry about including too many of the good fats in your diet.

Where do I get my protein?

Protein can be found in all natural foods. Vegetables and fruits taken together have about 15% of their calories as protein. Nuts, seeds (especially hemp and sesame), nut/seed butters, dark leafy greens and sprouts, and algae (such as spirulina) are rich sources of protein. More protein is assimilated in raw foods than in cooked foods, which means you don't need to eat quite as much protein if it's from raw sources. Even non-vegetarians (who consume more protein), should still also add at least 50% raw foods to their diets. Once they do, non-vegetarians often find they naturally reduce the amount of animal protein they consume.

Is the raw food diet expensive?

When you make simple recipes, like the ones in Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People, the raw food diet is less expensive than SAD (Standard American Diet). True, organic fruits and vegetables cost more than conventional ones, but they are still cheaper than meat, dairy products, and processed foods. And even if organic fruits and vegetables do cost more money, the benefits to your health will save you money in the long run.

I have a small kitchen. Do I need a lot of appliances and ingredients to make raw foods?

No. All you need to get started is a blender, a food processor, a knife, and a cutting board. And they don't need to be expensive brands either. You do not need a food dehydrator or fancy high-speed blender to make the recipes in Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People. You also don't need a juicer in the beginning, although you may want one eventually if you choose to have juice for breakfast. As far as ingredients go, nothing exotic is needed. Stocking your kitchen with just a few staples, such as almonds and sunflower seeds, and basic produce, such as kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, and seasonal fruit, will enable you to create healthy raw meals right away.

What do you eat in a typical day?

I eat pretty simply. I start off each day with a large glass of water. Then I'll have a fruit and green smoothie (orange, banana, blueberries, and kale) or green juice (kale, celery, cucumber, apple). Lunch is usually a soup and a dip or paté made from almonds and sunflower seeds with lots of cut-up veggies. Dinner is often a large salad. Sometimes I have seasonal fruit or a raw dessert as a snack.

What first steps do you recommend for beginners who are used to SAD (the Standard American Diet)?

If you take just three steps, you will automatically be eating about 50% raw foods:

Start the day with 16 oz of pure water. Then have a freshly made juice, smoothie, and/or fruit.

Begin typical lunches and dinners with a salad, maybe with avocado to make it heartier. Alternatively, you could have a raw soup as a starter.

If you snack, eat raw vegetable sticks, fruits, or vegetable juices. Plus pure water between meals.

What are some healthy options for breakfast?

I recommend keeping the morning meal light. This will leave you feeling energized and ready to begin the day. Juices and fruits are perfect for breakfast, since they are high in nutrients yet low in calories and easy to digest. If you need something heartier in the morning, try my Granola recipe in Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People.

I don't like the taste of green leafy vegetables. What can I do to disguise them?

The easiest way to eat more greens is to blend them into a delicious fruit smoothie. My favourite breakfast is the following smoothie:

  • 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 2 leaves kale
  • add water to thin.

Another one I like is:

  • 1/2 cup pineapple
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • add water to thin.

You won't even notice the greens.

I'm worried my digestive system can't handle too many raw fruits and vegetables. What can I do?

Raw fruits and vegetables are high in fibre, so there may be an adjustment period. Fruits generally aren't the problem—they are easy to digest, as long as you eat them in moderate amounts and on an empty stomach. As far as vegetables go, make sure you chew really well. I suggest you start with the easy-to-digest greens and vegetables at first, such as:

  • lettuce
  • celery
  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • summer squash
  • red bell peppers
  • green, leafy sprouts

Dark greens and cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, collards, cabbage, and broccoli are very nutritious (rich in protein and minerals), but can be harder to digest. Try shredding them fine and massaging them with a little sea salt, olive oil and lemon juice to soften them. Or, take greens as juices and blended soups at first, as you gradually adapt to eating more raw foods. You can also add your greens to blended fruit smoothies (use 60% fruit, 40% greens, and water to thin). Dehydrated green superfood powders are convenient supplements, especially while traveling.

How do you invent a new recipe?

I often think about a favourite cooked food dish I want to replicate. I use the same seasonings and herbs as in the traditional dish, but substitute raw ingredients for the cooked ones. For example, my Not Tuna Paté recipe in Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People has onion, celery, parsley, and lemon juice, just like traditional tuna salad, but almonds and sunflower seeds replace the tuna. Whenever I come up with a new recipe, I also think about how it can be made in under 30 minutes!

How can I stick to a raw food diet in the cold weather?

Just because you want to eat raw doesn't mean foods should be out-of-the-refrigerator cold. Let them come to room temperature. You can also warm soups and sauces over low heat on the stove for a couple of minutes. And drink hot teas. Getting vigorous exercise will also warm you up in the winter.

I love pasta, but I know that all those carbs aren't good for me. Is there a raw substitute?

There is a raw low-carb substitute for pasta—zucchini! When people say they like pasta, what they usually mean is that they like the taste of the sauce and the "al dente" texture. Zucchini is a bland and softer vegetable, so when you cut it the right way, it actually has an al dente texture, and it absorbs the flavour of any sauce you serve it with. To make zucchini pasta, start with a peeled zucchini, and use the vegetable peeler to produce long ribbons, rotating the zucchini until only the core of seeds remains. These ribbons are your "fettuccini", and they taste delicious with marinara or pesto sauce.

How do you make tough greens like kale and collards palatable raw?

To make a raw green such as kale more palatable, cut it into really fine ribbons, and then add a dressing of extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt. Don't just toss it gently the way you'd toss a green salad. You want the kale to wilt, so massage the dressing into the greens with your hands. The result will be kale as soft as steamed or stir-fried, but more colourful and flavourful.

How can I make creamy salad dressings that aren't high in fat?

You can make dressings out of cucumbers, red bell peppers, or tomatoes, to create a low-fat creamy dressing. The red bell pepper dressing in Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People has the following ingredients, blended until smooth:

  • red bell pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • sea salt
  • garlic
  • cayenne
  • fresh dill or basil
  • red onion

I have to take my lunch to work and I don't want to bring a large salad. Any suggestions for portable lunches?

Try making a raw soup, which is like a smoothie, but with vegetables instead of fruits. Start with a lot of greens and veggies, because when you blend them down, they condense in volume. You can transport raw soup in a jar or thermos and drink it or eat it with a spoon. Also try a dip or paté, such as Not Tuna Paté, with cut up veggie sticks. You can eat this like finger food—much easier than eating a salad when you're on the go.

Do you have any tips for sticking to a healthy diet while traveling?

When traveling, I eat lots of fresh fruits, since they don't require preparation. I also bring a small blender with me, which takes care of a breakfast smoothie (usually orange, banana, and a tablespoon of one of the "green" powders on the market). Snacks are easy with all the delicious raw food bars available. Apples and almonds also make a good snack. For lunch try some cut up veggies and raw flaxseed crackers (also widely available in natural food stores these days), with store-bought guacamole and salsa, or simply with some avocado or almond butter. At a restaurant for dinner, I'm more flexible. I try to keep my choices as healthy as possible, avoiding red meat, fried foods, white bread, and white sugar. If I do indulge, I simply eat very lightly the next day to compensate. With this flexible approach, I haven't found it difficult to stick to a mostly raw diet.

I have a really busy week—I don't even have 30 minutes most weekdays! Are there any raw food dishes I can make in advance?

Almond milk, salad dressings, patés (dips made from soaked nuts and seeds) and desserts all keep for five days in the refrigerator.

How can I have variety in weekday lunches and dinners without making a lot of different recipes each day?

One of the central concepts of Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People is to make one recipe at the beginning of the week, and then transform it into many different meals. The nut/seed patés are particularly versatile this way. The Not Tuna Paté recipe can be used in the following ways: Add a scoop of it on top of or mixed into a salad, use it as a dip/spread with crudités (cut up veggies) and crackers, stuff it into a hollowed-out tomato, red bell pepper half, Romaine leaf, or mushroom, roll the paté and other veggies into nori seaweed to make California rolls, layer it between two tomato slices and top with pesto, sprouts, and thinly sliced olives to make Tomato Stacks. That's 8 meals!

How can I get my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables?

Kids need fruits and vegetables more than anyone—to be energetic and happy, to perform well in school, and to develop healthy eating habits for life. You can encourage both fruit and vegetable eating by enlisting your children's help in preparing easy recipes, especially brightly-coloured dishes and finger foods. Some of my kid-friendly favourites include: Green Smoothies, Veggie Chips with Ranch Dressing, Zucchini Noodles with Marinara Sauce, Tomato Stacks, Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almond Milk, Mango Sorbet, and Blueberry Pie.

Jenny, what is your favourite raw dessert?

I love chocolate, so my two favourites would have to be the chocolate mousse and the brownies in Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People. The mousse is made from avocados instead of cream, butter, and eggs, but you'd never know. It tastes just as sinful as the traditional version. And the brownies are truly a one-bowl, five-minute dessert. Just put everything in the food processor and you're done!

Remember the easiest way to lose excess fat is to eat low-calorie foods. Raw greens and vegetables have the lowest calories per bite of any food. Fruits are the second lowest, and they give satiation because they raise blood sugar and reduce appetite. Vigorous exercise is also important for weight loss.

Jennifer Cornbleet is a nationally recognized raw food chef and instructor. She offers lectures, classes, hands-on workshops, and consultations in the Chicago area and nationwide. Her first book, Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People, has already sold over 30,000 copies and is consistently on the Amazon.com bestselling cookbook lists. She has recently released the companion DVD, Raw Food Made Easy.

Jennifer is a faculty instructor at the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute, a raw food chef school in Northern California. She also directs the school's satellite program in Chicago, where she teaches the certification courses Fundamentals of Raw Living Foods and Essentials of Raw Culinary Arts.

Jennifer lectures extensively—in natural food markets, bookstores, culinary schools, and colleges throughout the world. She has appeared on CBS and ABC Chicago and NBC Denver, and her recipes have been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Conscious Choice, the New York Press, and Cooking Light Magazine.

Jennifer's current projects include a new book, Raw For Dessert, to be published next year. www.learnrawfood.com

Be sure to read the review of her book and DVD in January 2008 Issue

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